Take a long, hard look at those slaughterhouse trucks
To this day, no one has said it better than the Mahatma: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Gandhi came from a nation where animals are in some cases revered, and in many others, treated with abominable cruelty. Just like, in fact, our own.
Although during this holiday season, millions of dollars are being spent on pet presents and treats, millions of factory-farmed animals continue to live and die in pain. And we turn away our faces. We simply don’t want to know.
Recently, a story splashed across the news about the Koch Foods slaughterhouse here in Chattanooga. An undercover video, made by the group Mercy for Animals, showed multiple, sickening abuses to living animals. A week later, similar allegations were made against the Pilgrim’s Pride slaughterhouse by both Animal Welfare Institute and Farm Sanctuary, calling it among the “10 worst in the nation.” The reaction from the companies that own the slaughterhouses? A familiar pattern: deny, discredit—and deny again.
And the media coverage? The news cycle has moved on, perhaps heavily prompted by the money—and it is blood money, make no mistake—that these companies spend, giving them the leverage to kill stories they want buried.
So the animals continue to suffer. And we just don’t want to know.
Don’t think my solution is “Everyone become a vegetarian.” As someone who stills eats fish (on my journey back to vegetarianism), I have chosen that path, but I don’t attempt to force it on others. But there are ways to raise and slaughter animals that are not cruel. And if you think that eating flesh from animals that lived and died in terror and pain has no consequences for you—science increasingly disagrees.
Dr. Temple Grandin, known to many from the portrayal by Claire Danes in the film named for her, has pioneered research into the effects caused by inhumane treatment of factory-farmed animals. Her conclusions: Epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (stress hormones) when released into the blood stream will stay in the body and affect the quality of the meat. When you eat this meat, you are ingesting those hormones and hormone-induced byproducts. Consuming this type of meat can cause unwanted health problems.
Jonathan Safran Foer, in his book “Eating Animals,” takes it further: “Perhaps in the back of our minds we already understand, without all the science I’ve discussed, that something terribly wrong is happening. Our sustenance now comes from misery. We know that if someone offers to show us a film on how our meat is produced, it will be a horror film. We perhaps know more than we care to admit, keeping it down in the dark places of our memory—disavowed. When we eat factory-farmed meat we live, literally, on tortured flesh. Increasingly, that tortured flesh is becoming our own.”
“But I still don’t want to be a vegetarian,” you say. OK. You can buy meats from local farmers who raise and slaughter humanely. You can raise your voice against the barbaric practices of factory farming. You can stop turning your face away.
“The assumption that animals are without rights and the illusion that our treatment of them has no moral significance is a positively outrageous example of Western crudity and barbarity. Universal compassion is the only guarantee of morality.”
—Arthur Schopenhauer, “The Basis of Morality”